SURFRAD includes ancillary data (e.g., cloud cover, moisture) that affect the transfer of solar and thermal infrared radiation to and from the surface. An aerosol optical depth product has been recently added.

Aerosol optical depth is a measure of the extinction of the solar beam by dust and haze. In other words, particles in the atmosphere (dust, smoke, pollution) can block sunlight by absorbing or by scattering light. AOD tells us how much direct sunlight is prevented from reaching the ground by these aerosol particles. It is a dimensionless number that is related to the amount of aerosol in the vertical column of atmosphere over the observation location.

A value of 0.01 corresponds to an extremely clean atmosphere, and a value of 0.4 would correspond to a very hazy condition. An average aerosol optical depth for the U.S. is 0.1 to 0.15.

Choosing a Calibration

All Vo's in the two-month period that pass the statistical elimination are corrected to an circular orbit (because of the yearly variation in the earth-sun distance) and then averaged to a "representative" orbit-normalized calibration Vo for that period.

"Representative" Vo's for each channel (square symbols) are then plotted in time series over two year periods, as shown in the example below.

Plot of channel calibrations varying over time

The sinusoidal lines are best fit functions used to interpolate spectral Vo's to specific days. Interpolated daily Vo values are corrected back to the earth-sun distance appropriate to the day being processed, and then combined with MFRSR measurements to produce daily time series of total optical depth, from which AOD is derived.